The Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has raised the alarm over continued encroachment of its Aids to Navigation (AtoN) tools near the Likoni channel crossing.
KMA director-general George Okong’o said the obstruction to AtoN is posing danger to ships that use them to dock at the Mombasa port.
“We have reports that those people who were removed from Senti Kumi village in Likoni after encroaching on the navigation tools have returned and have started rebuilding, oblivious of the danger they are exposing this area to,” he said in an interview.
Mr Okongo asked the county security team to move with speed and clear the area as it is the only place captains use to direct their ships to the port.
“For example, if a crude oil ships is derailed because of poor navigation, can one even imagine the magnitude of the loss and damage that will happen?” he posed.
“These are some of the issues that people must understand and desist from obstructing ships sailing into the port by building unauthorised structures,” he said.
The relevant statutory provisions with regard to AtoN are drawn from the Kenya Maritime Authority Act, 2006 which mandates KMA to administer and enforce the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, 2009, and any other legislation relating to the maritime sector.
The Merchant Shipping Act, 2009, empowers the KMA director general to exercise general supervision over all AtoNs.
The Act notes that AtoNs may be constructed, established and maintained privately.
To enhance “regulation in the construction, establishment, alteration, discontinuance and maintenance of AtoN,” the Merchant Shipping Act, 2009 provides that the KMA director- general “shall provide prior written consent” to ensure that they conform to prescribed specifications.
Speaking in an interview with Shipping, head of maritime safety department Mbarak Mwinyiatani said AtoNs are built in places which do not favour other constructions.
“Constructions should be such that they don’t obstruct the visibility of the AtoN and also do not interfere with the flashing characteristics of the AtoN — like colour and its corresponding flashing light,” he said.
If buildings do not comply with the requirements laid down in the law, ships run the risk of capsizing.
“Obstructing AtoN could lead to vessel incidents or accidents due to obstruction and confusion as the vessels will not be able to avoid dangerous zones, and follow the proper harbour approaches,” Mr Mbarak said.
“The vessels will not be able to also locate ports, piers, jetties, etc., at night and during bad weather conditions.”
He also warned fishermen over fastening their vessels on AtoN, saying that may shift the position of the navigation aids
“Additionally, the fastened vessel may obstruct an on-coming vessel which may need to use the AtoN at the time. An AtoN should be operational at all times, its paint should not fade and for clarity, it should be maintained regularly,” he said.
In January this year, the National Land Commission(NLC) demolished houses that had been constructed at the AtoNs in Senti Kumi village in Likoni. NLC had said Kenya risked losing ships if navigational aids leading to the harbour remained obscured by illegal structures.
The then NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri said they received reports from KMA in 2013, that ships were having difficulties in identifying beacons to their routes as they enter and exit the Port of Mombasa.